Swedish military open fire on demonstrators

Ådalen 1931

Shots of Ådalen in 1931 is an event about a work conflict in the middle of Sweden in the early 30´s.  These events have played a significant part in Swedish people as well as police, military forces and Swedish laws. It keeps on playing its part even today.  

During the summer of 1930 there was a conflict about lowering wages at the factory Marma in Hälsingland, Sweden. The conflict started when the employers go on strike, but the employee answered by putting in scabs. During the spring of 1931 several factories were put on strike since the wages hadn´t changed. Since season for shipping paper to sea was close the owners were eager to make the delivery of what they had sold, even though the prices were extremely low, but this was hard when workers were on strike. Factory owner Gerhard Veerstegh had gotten himself about 60 professional scabs to make sure the paper mass left the factory. When scabs came on May 13 there was an enormous rage among the workers. They gathered a meeting at the same day where they marched to the factory where the scabs were. They were now beaten and taken back to the nearest city, Kramfors, where they were shown off to the public. The police that had been sent to keep the workers calm couldn´t manage the task which led to military being called in to secure the scabs. When military arrived, there were riots containing shots from the military and throwing of stones from the workers but nothing serious happened.

The demonstration and the fatal shots
During the morning on May 14 there was a protest meeting held at the community house in Frånö. Present at this meeting were as good as all of the union representatives from the middle part of Sweden and they all decided to shut down the work in the area. Besides the meeting there were about 3-4000 demonstrators going towards the scab’s residence in Lunde.  When they arrived in Lunde a military officer thought he saw weapons among the demonstrators and that he heard gunshots, this has however never been proved. Captain Nils Maesterton, commander of the military, commanded fire to the ground in front of the demonstrators. When the demonstrators widened, Maesterton thought it was an attempt to get around his flank, he ordered fire. A trumpeter among the demonstrators blew “cease-fire” and the military stopped shooting. When the demonstrators were dispelled there were five men dead in the field.


Syndicalists and communists dissociated the military violence after the shots at May 14th. The “Socialdemokraterna” that where ruling didn´t have the same look upon things as their union, “Landsorganisationen”, the chairman of the social democrats, Per-Albin Hansson, communicated their ground, which was that the leaders of the strike were responsible for the incident. The governor that requested the military help was fired and the military commanders were put to trial. Several of the strike organizers and demonstrators were also put to trial and charged and sentenced. After the incident in Ådalen, Swedish military has never been put in action in similar conflicts. The commission investigating the incident came to the conclusion that military forces are not suited for this kind of civil event due to the consequences. Laws were changed so that only the highest decision-making body in Sweden were to decide whether military should be put in when conflicts occur. This was again discussed when the events of 9/11 occurred when it was again necessary to discuss how to act in a crisis situation. Rules were then set that military forces can be used in case of terror attacks. This must be in cooperation with the police.